When you mention Detroit and retail, one name quickly comes to mind: Rachel Lutz, the proprietress of two of the city’s most influential stores: The Peacock Room and Frida.
Lutz stole the show (again) this week at the Mackinac Policy Conference when she made news in announcing the opening of her third retail location. Lutz, who is attending the conference on Mackinac Island, is bringing her version of Modernism in terms of clothing, accessories and more with Yama, which will find a home in the iconic Fisher Building. She’s also hosting a pop-up shop at Mission Point to showcase her ideas and products.
Yama is a tribute to Minoru Yamasaki, whose influence is found across Detroit, the United States and the world. Yama, his nickname, is best known as the architect of the World Trade Center in New York (Detroit’s One Woodward or Consolidated Gas Building was his original model for that design) as well as for memorable buildings including Wayne State University’s dramatically beautiful McGregor Memorial Conference Center.
Yamasaki was known for his credo and desire to create “serenity, surprise and delight.” And it’s not too much of a stretch to say that Lutz does the same. She gave an update on her work, her inspirations and her hopes for the future in an interview.
Q: Why add to your retail empire at this time?
A: I had no plans for physical expansion. But the Fisher Building approached me about a month ago, and I’ve been keeping an eye on New Center- there’s a fresh energy there. The developers of The Platform really have a vision for the Fisher Building and the neighborhood, and I want to help them achieve it.
Q: Why Yama?
A: The Peacock Room is a girly dress-up closet, while my sister store Frida is more casual and bohemian. Yama is for a woman who favors clean, simple lines but still has an appreciation for interesting detail. As a lover of architecture and Detroit history, I named the store after Minoru Yamasaki, my favorite architect. He left a large footprint in Detroit.
Q: Where do you feel Detroit retail is compared to when you opened the Peacock Room?
A: The Detroit retail market was severely underserved when I opened more than five years ago. It’s still underserved, but Detroiters now have more options. It’s fantastic that we have more luxury goods than ever during my lifetime! But it’s so important to remember that the city needs a mix of merchandise. Luxury and basic goods, big-box and independent, in the downtown core and in the neighborhoods.
Q: Where do you see yourself and Detroit in five more years?
A: I can barely keep up with Detroit now, so I cannot imagine what it will be like five years down the road. I just hope that my customers will continue to support me so that I can continue to be a part of it.